The student news source of Garfield High School

The Garfield Messenger

The student news source of Garfield High School

The Garfield Messenger

The student news source of Garfield High School

The Garfield Messenger

The College Counselor Question

A brief look at one of the most debatably corrupt and useful parts of applying to college.

College counselors: Everybody’s favorite topic. Well, apparently not. When researching for this article (which essentially consisted of haphazardly reaching out to a bunch of people for interviews), I stumbled across a startling finding. A ton of seniors used college counselors. Like way more than I thought. In retrospect, it makes sense. Attending a university these days costs the average family tens of thousands of dollars, while the most expensive ones, without financial aid, can cost nearly half a million for the whole four years. So, relatively, it’s easy to see how spending a couple thousand bucks to help secure your dream college and future ambitions can seem worth it.

To help lessen the cost, “college counselors often do pro-bono work or have sliding scales. They do try to make things accessible to people,” Garfield high school counselor Jessica Allen said. Alternative resources are also available for those who need it. “People with lower incomes have access to the Career Center and their college counselors,” Allen said. Additionally, right now applications are open for free 1:1 virtual college counseling for juniors whose families make less than $90,000 per year. You can look up for more information on how to apply.

According to Allen, whether or not you should get a college counselor depends on your circumstances. “It’s one resource that’s available,” she said. “But maybe you have siblings that went to college, parents that went to college, or other friends and family that can provide one-on-one support. Depending on your own level of initiative and self-sufficiency, you can apply to college completely on your own. There’s a number of resources online. But if you’re someone that’s very lost or confused, or has really specific situational questions, I think that’s when one-on-one is desired.” 

Anecdotally, I was one of the former—I didn’t have a college counselor and instead decided to spend an exorbitant amount of time researching schools. My thoughts were this: “There are only so many ways for a person to tell me to get good grades, take hard classes, involve myself in school life, and write good essays.” And the idea of having an extra person on top of my mother nagging me about that? And paying for it? Hard pass. But hey, I’m not everyone.

Senior Xavier Wernli did opt to hire a college counselor. “I didn’t really know what to do,and so it helped me navigate the whole process,”  Wernli said. “It’s helpful to have someone who can guide you who knows the system because you don’t know it all… They have been working with so many people for so long. They know exactly what schools look for in a student. It’s like having a really smart mentor.” Still, Wernli doesn’t think things would have turned out too much differently if he didn’t have a college counselor. “I already knew about the college I ended up going to,” he added, “but it was helpful to have another editor for college essays.” 

In his junior year, Wernli began meeting with his counselor. In total, it cost around $5,000. “My family could afford a college counselor… and a lot of people can’t do that. A lot of the college application process is unfair.”

Wernli started working on his college applications early, and with the help of his counselor, was able to finish most of them in the summer. “It helped me get ahead,” he said. In the end, he got into his top choice, Macalester College, after applying there Early Decision.

On the other hand, senior Lumen Hollander did not use a college counselor. “I felt overwhelmed at the time, and I was just like, ‘There are so many things going on. I’ll just figure it out on my own,’” Hollander said. “And then I kind of regretted it because of the essays. The essays are really confusing because you don’t have a lot of information. So, having a second perspective that’s not your parents who applied 30 years ago would’ve been helpful.”

Having a college counselor “is not the most important thing,” Hollander concluded, “but it is one more thing that makes it that much easier or that much harder depending on whether you get one or not.”


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About the Contributor
Violet is a senior at Garfield High School, and this is her first year writing for the Messenger. She swims for Garfield and is involved in Tech Theater and Model UN. In her free time, she enjoys drawing people who don’t exist, thinking about the Iraq War, and watching semi-pretentious movies.

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